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'Project Runway' Crowns Its Season 11 Winner

Becky Broderick Becky Broderick
April 27th, 2013 7:23am EDT

On the Season 11 "Project Runway" finale, three finalists faced off at New York Fashion Week, and oddly enough, the ultimate winner turned out to be a contestant who nearly quit in the competition's final weeks. At the beginning of the season, many viewers might not have predicted that Michelle Lesniak Franklin would emerge victorious, but she was my early pick to win it all. In fact, the edgy Portland-based designer was the ONLY one I could envision walking away with the title. Of course, I have no weekly recaps to back this up, but you're just gonna have to trust me on this one. *sigh*

Michelle Lesniak Franklin wins Project Runway Season 11Michelle Lesniak Franklin is named the winner of "Project Runway" Season 11.

If you've been wondering why I haven't been recapping "Project Runway" this time around, well, first of all, thank you for noticing my absence! I don't have a great reason, other than this season simply just didn't do it for me. For one thing, I felt like the team format seemed like a cheap ploy to generate more interest in a show that has gradually been waning in popularity. (Because, you know, teamwork + egos = bitch-fights = reality show gold.) And it didn't help that the early episodes featured way too much "OMG, THIS IS THE GREATEST IDEA EVER!" affirmations from the judges, as if they were trying to convince themselves just as much as us that the new team focus was a real game-changer. And speaking of the judges, my biggest gripe with this season was the absence of Michael Kors. Affable replacement Zac Posen just didn't have it in him to fire off sassy one-liners, suggesting that some designs were only suitable for elderly women behaving badly or farm animals on crack. And he wore waaaay too much color.

I've read some reports in which the great and powerful Tim Gunn stated that this was actually his favorite season ever, which I just don't get. His taste is usually impeccable! Come on, this season is better than the magical, musical, Santino-tastic Season 2? Better than the fierce, hot mess of Season 4? Please. Sure, I'll give him that it was better than Season 8 when the judges all went mad and named Wheatgrass McWretched the winner, but I'm not sure this season was interesting enough to truly stand the test of time as a memorable one in the series' history. Kind of like Season 5. Remember Season 5? Remember Leanne Marshall? I really don't either. Thank God for Wikipedia.  

Anyhoo...despite my lack of recaps, I really did watch every episode this season, and I really did pick Michelle as the winner from the very first episode. She just had a certain funky energy that I could see harbored a lot of creativity, and even though she was often saddled with a losing team that prevented her from winning many challenges, her designs always felt like a breath of fresh air. Since I was already confident that she was a shoe-in, the finale was a bit anti-climactic for me. And I imagine that, after last week's sneak peek of the finalists' collections, that reality must have become fairly obvious to everyone else.

During that collection preview, the judges felt that Stanley's pieces were beautifully made and expensive-looking, but not modern or sexy enough. Regarding Patricia's Native American tree-inspired designs, the panel expressed concerns that, although they were wonderfully unique, they did not look like they were part of a cohesive line. And aside from a few tweaks here and there, neither Stanley nor Patricia took much of the judges' advice when putting the finishing touches on their collections.

Michelle Lesniak Franklin's collectionA sample of Michelle Lesniak Franklin's collection.

At last night's final judging, there were a few minor complaints lodged with Michelle (some pieces were over-designed; some flirted with being "costume-y"), but overall the gang had nothing but praise for the cohesiveness of her "lone wolf" theme and the versatility of her garments.

On the other hand, Heidi and the gang could seem to only find flashes of brilliance in Stanley's and Patricia's uneven collections. King Kors managed to deliver some well-placed stings, like referring to Stanley's show-ending gown as "Betty White on 'Dancing with the Stars'" and responding to some of Patricia's outfits and styling with, "Oh my God, the art teacher's on an acid trip." Did I mention how much I missed Kors?

Pieces from Stanley Hudson's and Patricia Michaels's collectionsSamples of Stanley Hudson's collection (left) and Patricia Michaels's collection (right).

What do you think? Did the right designer win? And what do you see for the future of the show? Now that Heidi Klum is joining the "America's Got Talent" panel, does that mean she's out on "Project Runway?" And if Heidi goes, does that mean saying "auf wiedersehen" to the series?

Photo Credits: Photos by Barbara Nitke. Copyright 2011. ,